Georgian bantamweight contender Merab ‘The Machine’ Dvalishvili has been living up to his nickname ever since joining the worlds leading mixed martial arts promotion, as he not only broke a couple personal bests this past year in 2020, but he’s also broken some historic records that were set before him.
After losing his first two bouts in the UFC, bringing his record from 7-2 to 7-4, Dvalishvili has gone 5-0 since, winning all 15 rounds with many, many 10-8’s in those scorecards, bringing his record to 12-4.
You see, Dvalishvili isn’t much of a finisher, as nine of his 12 victories come via decision, but he’s clearly one of the best fighters in the world. Honestly, he could quite handily be 7-0 inside the octagon, and 14-2 as a professional, rather than 12-4 as well. You’ll see why we say that here shortly.
Dvalishvili won the ROC Bantamweight Championship with a 5-2 record and defended it once before joining the UFC. Upon joining the UFC, he was slated against veteran Frankie Saenz for his promotional debut.
Though Saenz is an NCAA Division I wrestler that won most of his fights using his takedowns and control, he was taken down a total of 11 times by Dvalishvili, and he was out-struck 104-66 in total strikes. Dvalishvili very controversially lost that bout via split decision.
We did see one thing of him out of this performance though, he does not stop moving forward, and this kid can wrestle like no other! His next bout was against Ricky Simon, a very talented opponent, who he lost to via submission (guillotine choke) at 5:00 of round three.
This also, like the Saenz fight, should not have been a defeat. Dvalishvili dominated this fight, took Simon down six times, was taken down himself momentarily twice, and he even knocked Simon down at one point.
On Dvalishvili’s last takedown attempt, Simon wrapped him up in a guillotine choke and had him mounted for the entire last minute of the fight up until final horn. Dvalishvili wasn’t out at the end of the fight though, as the referee said he was; he was a little dazed, but he was conscious.
He also out-struck Simon 82-38 in total strikes, and surely would have gotten the nod in the decision.
Dvalishvili then fought Terron Ware, took him down five times, out-struck him 205-22 in total strikes, and won the unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-25) victory.
Next came a bout with The Ultimate Fighter 27 winner Brad Katona, who he also took down five times and out-struck 215-43 in total strikes en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory.
Now comes his three fights of 2020, where he of course went 3-0, dominating all three.
He first fought Casey Kenney back in February, a former LFA flyweight & bantamweight champion, who’s 5-1 in the UFC with his only defeat coming to Dvalishvili. Kenney’s fighting Dominick Cruz next if that says anything to this mans skill level and potential.
Dvalishvili absolutely mauled Kenney, taking him down a total of 12 times, out-striking him 114-47 in total strikes, winning the unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 29-28) victory. Kenney’s also a 2nd-degree black belt in Judo, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, making this dominant victory over him all that more impressive.
Dvalishvili was then slated against former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg, before Borg withdrew from the bout and was replaced by promotional newcomer Gustavo Lopez.
Of course, Lopez, though he’s a good fighter, and a finisher, lost to Dvalishvili, as he was taken down 13 times and out-struck 110-49 in total strikes, giving the Georgian the unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25) victory.
Dvalishvili would get his first big name in the bout following, as The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner and two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson was next up.
Though it wasn’t quite as dominant as most of his fights, Dvalishvili took Dodson down twice and out-struck him 88-31 in total strikes, awarding him the unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory.
You see, this is the beautiful thing about this. Dvalishvili broke the record for the most takedowns landed in a single calendar year in 2020 with 27. He only needed to secure one in the Dodson fight to tie for first place, and he only needed two in order to surpass it, which he did, exactly.
If he didn’t secure any takedowns against Dodson, he still would’ve been tied for third, which is just insane to think about. This man secured 25 takedowns in two fights, regardless of who he was fighting, it’s just remarkable.
Khabib Nurmagomedov previously had the record at 26, stemming from his three performances back in 2013. This is also quite remarkable because Nurmagomedov didn’t secure any takedowns in his first fight in 2013, he didn’t need to, as he KO’d longtime veteran Thiago Tavares 1:55 into round one.
Nurmagomedov did however secure 21 takedowns against four-time NAIA All-American wrestler Abel Trujillo, and he secured another five against Pat Healy, who’d just gotten done mauling Jim Miller in his fight previous, making it 26 takedowns in the year of 2013.
The Trujillo fight was so incredibly impressive because the man who had the record for most takedowns landed in a single fight prior was Sean Sherk, who secured 15 against Hermes Franca back in 2007. That was a five round fight, and Franca’s a BJJ fighter.
Nurmagomedov secured six more takedowns in ten less minutes, and against a wrestler. Gleison Tibau and Rashad Evans are each tied for third, with Tibau securing 24 takedowns in 2009, and Evans securing 24 takedowns in 2006.
Tibau started out 2009 facing Rich Clementi, who he submitted (guillotine choke) in round one, after securing his second takedown of the fight. He then took Jeremy Stephens down five times en route to a unanimous decision victory, before taking Melvin Guillard down six times, losing the split decision.
Tibau’s fourth and final bout of 2009 showed him secure 11 takedowns against Josh Neer, who he defeated via unanimous decision to close out the year. Evans had a great year in 2006, going 3-0 through the year.
April of 2006 marked just Evans’ second UFC bout after winning The Ultimate Fighter 2, which happened in November, 2005. Evans defeated Sam Hoger via split decision in April, securing nine takedowns throughout the bout.
He followed this up with a majority decision victory over The Ultimate Fighter I finalist Stephan Bonnar, taking him down seven times, before KO’ing Jason Lambert in round two, taking him down eight times, making his 24th takedown of 2006.
Evans really needed that latter victory, he’d won his last three fights, and his first three UFC fights via split decision, split decision, and majority decision. This really put the stamp on Evans being an elite light-heavyweight, once dropping down after winning The Ultimate Fighter.
Number five on the list of most takedowns secured in a calendar year is Colby Covington, to no surprise, who secured 23 takedowns in 2016. Covington went 3-0 throughout 2016, defeating the likes of Jonathan Meunier, Max Griffin, and Bryan Barberena.
Covington took Meunier down five times en route to a third round submission (rear naked choke) victory, before taking Griffin down six times en route to a third round TKO victory.
If you look at Griffin’s record, it isn’t the very best, at 16-8, but Covington remains to this day the only man to finish him, and four of Griffin’s seven defeats are split decisions, at least three of which he certainly could’ve gotten the nod in.
Covington finished out his 2016 year by mauling Bryan Barberena to a unanimous decision victory, taking him down a total of 12 times, the 12th of which made for his 23rd takedown of 2016.
It’s pretty crazy the ‘The Eagle’ had the record for the last seven years; well, it’s not that crazy, you’d actually think someone like Nurmagomedov would have the record, but it’s crazy seeing Dvalishvili surpass it.
Dvalishvili’s kind of like a mix between Covington and Nurmagomedov, that’s what he fights like. He has the wrestling ability of both, he has the insane pressure of both, he has the cardio of Covington, and he also strikes a bit similar to Covington.
This Georgian tank started out his career with a record of 1-2, losing his first professional fight, and losing his third to Bellator prospect Ricky Bandejas. As you’ve read, he also went 0-2 at the start of his UFC run, very controversially we might add. He’s no stranger to adversity, but the way he fights, it’s almost like he’s never had any adversity.
This isn’t the first record Dvalishvili has broken though, below we list his other records and credentials:
- Most takedowns in UFC bantamweight history – 41 (Urijah Faber and Ricky Simon tied for 2nd with 26)
If his bout with Gustavo Lopez was at 135 lbs, rather than 140 lbs, he’d have 54 takedowns at bantamweight. Still, he has the record, and it isn’t close. He’s only been in the UFC for three years as well, it’s just remarkable.
- One of just two fighters in UFC history to secure double-digit takedowns in a single fight three different times (Demetrious Johnson)
- Most ground strikes landed in a single bantamweight fight – 189
- Most body strikes landed in a single bantamweight fight – 127
- Most takedowns landed in a single bantamweight fight – 12
- Most takedown attempts in a single bantamweight fight – 24
- Most strikes landed in one round of a bantamweight fight – 114
- Most strikes attempted in one round of a bantamweight fight – 153
- 2019 Combat Sambo World Championships Silver Medalist
- Judo Black Belt
- Most takedowns secured in one calendar year – 27
Merab Dvalishvili may just be the most prolific takedown artist in UFC history by time his career is all said and done. He’ll be 30-years-old in one week, and he’s already got more than half of the takedowns needed in order to secure that record for most in UFC history.
Georges St-Pierre is in first place with 90, Gleison Tibau is in second place with 84, Demetrious Johnson is in third place with 74, Nik Lentz and Frankie Edgar are tied for fourth with 68, Demian Maia is in sixth place with 65, Clay Guida is in seventh place with 64, Johny Hendricks is in eighth place with 61, Khabib Nurmagomedov is in ninth place with 59, and Colby Covington is in tenth place with 61.
Dvalishvili already has 54 after just three years of competing in the UFC, he may very well break that top ten list and take Covington’s spot in his next fight. He’ll need seven to tie it, and eight to surpass it. Dvalishvili has shown us before, that’s more than possible.
Dvalishvili was expected to face Cody Stamann, and then Raoni Barcelos in December at UFC Vegas 16, but both pulled out of the bout, and he remained without an opponent. Either of them would’ve made for a great match up, they’re both incredible talents in their own right.
Some people may discredit Dvalishvili because he’s not a finisher, but think about it, Georges St-Pierre wasn’t a finisher either, and most of us have him as our No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA history.
Not to mention, if he finished any of these fights, he wouldn’t have 54 takedowns in his seven UFC outings.
Just like Khabib Nurmagomedov, he nearly submitted (triangle choke) Abel Trujillo at the end of round one, the only thing that saved Trujillo was the round ending. If Nurmagomedov got the tap right then and there, he wouldn’t have a record 21 takedowns in one single fight.
Dvalishvili now sits at No. 12 in the UFC bantamweight rankings, who does he face next?